I want to talk about Josie. I want to write so much about her but the things that I have to say make me want to weep and stick in my throat and tie my fingers.
She’s six now. Last week, on Bonfire Night, we had presents and a party with a couple of local families and we made it as special as we could for her.
She’s having a terrible time. When Freddie died, she locked it up and hid it away and told us she didn’t care and didn’t have a brother and we just did our best to love her and be there for her. It’s hard to know what to do for a five year old when the world caves in; I’ve reason to suppose that refusing to speak of it with her would have been the wrong thing and we tried to give her openings, tried to include her in the grief without sucking her down.
But I knew that she was hurting, because of all of them, she had the most invested in it; she kissed my tummy goodnight every night and he would kick at her more than at any of the others.
She doesn’t understand, she just doesn’t understand. Now, suddenly, the grief is tumbling out and she cannot stop crying. The night before her birthday it started, although I had seen it star to pool and well up in her from a few weeks before. I can’t tell exactly what started it. It might have been my fault becasue I faltered when perhaps I should have been stronger and asked her if she was okay with doing something that had been allocated to her, something I thought might have triggered her. She said she was fine with it, indeed she still seems excited, but either I planted the seed, or the seed was there just waiting to be made into something that would hurt.
The night before her birthday she started to cry. She sat on my lap and sobbed and sobbed, sobbing for him for her, for the baby that isn’t yet in my tummy, for all the things she wanted for him and all the things that have changed. And it just hasn’t stopped. She’s worried about going to the shops in case she sees babies, cried all evening after seeing a friend with a baby last week, has sat on my lap and sobbed, asking question after question that she hasn’t known the answers to but hasn’t known how to ask.
She didn’t know if he was sick when he was born or if he got sick after. She didn’t know if he got a germ and if he did, did that mean that daddy and Fran having germs this week might make them die too. She didn’t know if he cried or if he hurt or if he was ever okay.
I don’t know what we could have done differently. We’ve tried to be there for her and we’ve tried to keep talking about him but she hasn’t wanted to know. She’s slid away from me at any opening I’ve given her, she refused to acknowledge anything about it. I don’t know what we can do differently now. I’ve done what I can; I let her have his toys, which she wanted and sleeps with and I have to kiss them goodnight every night. She kisses my necklace each night and she kisses me from him.
I think she’s hurting because she loves her boy baby toys but right now they sting her and she doesn’t know whether to give them up or keep them. I think she’s hurting because she doesn’t know now if she cares less if she doesn’t cry one night. I think she is confused about whether we love him because we don’t talk of him every day, whether we care about it or if we’ve moved on. How do you explain to a six year old that you just learn to live with the pain but it doesn’t make it better?
I feel so responsible. This is such an impossible burden for such a little girl. How on earth can I help her get through this?
I don’t know ifÂ answering a question in a magazine quiz today that yes, she did have a little brother or sister, means she’s turned a corner or is just on the crest of a wave of crushing grief.
Josie, I hope one day you’ll read this and know that I cared. That I love you, that I’m worrying about you, that I think you are beautiful and amazing and strong and brave. That I think you’ll be okay and next year your birthday won’t hurt you or me so much as it did this year. That I’m trying, for you more than anyone else, to given you another baby to love. That I love you and I want it to be okay and I’m sorry, so very very sorry, that this has happened to you and to all of us. That I’m watching and trying to work out if we can fix you or if you need something else from somewhere else. That I’m here, robbing you of your privacy over this, in the hope that someone who knows you and loves you or someone who knows how it feels to be you, can give me some advice on how to help you.
And that I hope, despite everything, that being six with fireworks and friends and cake baked with more love than any little girl could need, did make up a bit for what you didn’t have that day.